The foster care system in Washington state needs some work. So let's get on it.
It impacts all of us.
There are currently over 9,000 kids in out-of-home care, meaning that they live with either a relative, family friend, or in a licensed foster home. They are your children's classmates. There are more than 4,600 licensed foster homes and 2,700 Children's Administration employees across the state. These are your neighbors, coworkers, and friends. The 2015-2016 Children's Administration budget was $583,000,000. These are your tax dollars. 25% of former foster youth end up homeless and children that have been in the foster care system are between 4-10 times more likely to commit a crime. This is your community.
As a community, let's try a little experiment.
So what do we do?
The Foster Innovation Lab exists to bring positive changes to the foster care system by creating an online space where creativity, collaboration, and experimentation thrive.
The Lab was created by a small band of volunteer foster parents. Like many of you, we are tired and frustrated. But more than that, we are determined and ready to try something different - and we know that many of you are too.
Let's begin. The Lab runs on the following cycle: clarify and focus on a specific challenge, try experimental solutions to that challenge, then learn together as a community.
The problems within the system are complex and messy. We can't solve them all at once, so it is important that we focus. To start our experiment, we are focusing on the goal of retaining capable, safe, and healthy foster homes.
To focus that goal even further, we are narrowing in on three key issues that are the proverbial "straws that break the camel's back."
Once we know our goals, we will work as a community to test a plethora of mini-experiments to see if we can start finding possible solutions. If you are familiar with the concept of continuous improvement, this is a familiar idea.
We aren't seeking big, magic-bullet solutions. What we want are small steps that combine to make a big difference.
The name of our game is collective learning. There is no one person that understands what is wrong with the system, and no one person responsible for fixing it. We will all work together to test ideas, measure results, and learn from what we have tried.
Our job, as the Lab, is to connect the dots. We will publish findings, create opportunities for brainstorming, and invite new ideas. But we can't do it without you.